Thursday, November 15, 2012

Panel discusses benefits and downsides to freelancing at Mass Comm week.

Photo taken by Patrice Cross
By Patrice Cross

A group of panelists discussed freelancing in journalism and mass communication with students Oct. 30 at Texas State’s Mass Comm Week.

The panelists included Leslie Hancock, Leslie Hancock Communcations; Susan Lahey, Fishpond Content; and Lance Lawhon, New Covenant Consulting.

Networking, perseverance and having a good reputation were three aspects of freelancing emphasized by Hancock, Lahey, and Lawhon.

Hancock opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of networking. She encouraged anyone interested in freelancing to join various organizations such as the Association for Women in Communications (AWC), Freelance Austin and Social Media Club of Austin.

“Referrals are gold when you’re working for yourself, always ask for a LinkedIn reference,” said Hancock.

It is cost effective for companies to use freelancers instead of paying a full-time employee. Hancock said work is coming to freelancers, but you have to make yourself memorable outside the quality of your work. To do this, Hancock encouraged students to constantly learn new tools and think of themselves as a brand.

Finding a niche has worked for many freelancers trying to find their client base. Hancock said you don’t need everyone to like you, just a few dozen people.

Hancock also encouraged students to get on social media.

“If you’re interested in social media or not, it doesn’t matter. You need one,” said Hancock.

If you want to be your own boss, Lawhon told students that perseverance is key. He said the difference between the corporate world and working for yourself is that you don’t have anyone to back you up.

“There are great things about working for yourself, and the downside is it all depends on you,” said Lawhon.

Lawhon suggested anyone going into freelance to join a professional association for help with various costs they’ll have to pay out of pocket, such as taxes and insurance.

A freelancer is an entire package. Lahey told students they don’t need to just act the part, they also need to look the part. She said if you look a mess, people will assume you can’t take care of their problem.

“Being a reporter is one thing, being a journalist is one thing, but being a business person is a completely different identity,” said Lahey. “You have to walk in and see yourself as a business person.”

Lahey said you have to dress a certain way, and think of the identity you are going to produce. These are all things that will make or break your reputation.

After the discussion, many students said they had already thought about doing freelance work prior to listening to the panelists.

Electronic media major Jonathan Gonzales said, “I think freelance is a more interesting way to work, and I think it is something that is more feasible for me in what I want to do, but I realize it isn’t something that is always going to be the most convenient, or always bring in the most money.”

Public relations major Ashley Howard had a similar point of view compared to Gonzales’ when asked if she had considered doing freelance work before listening to the panel.

“Yes, I have, but you never know if it’s going to be that consistent in bringing the clients home. It’s definitely something, once I have some experience under my belt, that I’d like to try.”

Social Media Club

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